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The MS. annals record, that Prince Edward came first to Coventry this year, and had 100 marks and a cup given him; that his house was kept at Cheylsmore, and that the gracious prince was one of the godfathers to the mayor's child. He remained in the city till the 3rd of May, and the form of an oath of allegiance and fidelity taken on that day by the mayor and aldermen, is preserved in the Leet book.
The next loyal exhibition of this nature was for the reception of Prince Arthur, in 1498, many entertaining particulars of which are derived from the same authority. We can give only two poetical specimens, and indeed we cannot speak very highly of the City Laureats of Coventry : their manufacture of poetry is by no means so celebrated as that of ribbons ; although, doubtless, the royal families repaid their poetical fervour with a corresponding quantity of privileges and charters :
“And the crosse * in the croschepyng was garnysshed & wyne ther rennyng and angels sensyng & syngyng with Orgayns and other melody &c. And at the Cundyt ther was seynt George kyllyng the dragon and seynt George had this speche folowyng
O most sovraign lorde be divyne provission to be
myn assistence in processe shall lerne
* In the Chamberlains' Accounts, made up Anno 1499, are these items :
It. p'd for settyng of the posts in the croschepyng when the kyng was here, in gret
ijs it. p'd for takyng down of the same posts a geyn ......
ха It. for pavyng in the croschepyng ther as the posts stode, of viij yards...
So ye in distresse preserve ever woll I
Which welcome is to this yo' chamb’r & to me right fayn
Vivat le prynce Arthur.
In this breve beyng
to yo' lyfes yend
In 1510, Henry VIII. and his then queen visited Co ventry; upon which occasion, three pageants were set forth, viz, one at Jordan Well, with nine orders of angels; one at Broad Gate, with divers beautiful damsels; and another at the Cross, with a goodly stage play. A very brief account, preserved in the MS. Annals of the City, is the only notice that remains of them; but, doubtless, the customary odes and addresses, and loyal unction, were poured over their majesties by the mayor, aldermen, and citizens, a class of lieges whose vials of effervescent loyalty were then, as often times in modern days, emptied without much mercy or discrimination.
In 1525, the Lady Mary, eldest daughter of Henry VIII., came to Coventry, and, we are told, lay at the Priory, where she remained two days. The mercers' pageant was gallantly trimmed, and stood in Cross Cheaping. At her going away, one hundred marks and a kerchief were presented to her. This account
VOL. XIII. PART II.
from the MS. is all that is recorded, except some items in the Trinity Guild accounts, which shew that the public bodies of the city, religious, probably, as well as civil, were assembled to do her honour.
The next and last royal visit to the city, attended with a display of pageants, was that of Queen Elizabeth, in 1565, a particular account of which is recorded in the MS. Annals. It is also fully extracted in Nichols's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth.*
We must return to a rapid notice of the pageants of the different companies. The Dramatis Persone are now only to be made out from the items of charges for their wardrobes. Among the characters represented in the smiths' pageant, the first in the list is God, or, as it is sometimes more correctly expressed, Jesus. The following are the principal entries describing the dress of character :
• The splendid entertainment of this queen, and the gorgeous public shews which were given in her honour, at Kenilworth, are well known and described in that singular tract, " A Letter whearin part of the Entertainment untoo the Queenz Majesty, at Killingwoorth Castl, in Warwick Sheer, in this Soomerz Progrest 1575, iz signified: from a freend officer attendant in the Coourt, unto hiz freend a Citizen and Merchaunt of London.” See also Kenilwoorth Ilustrated, a folio volume of graphic and literary illustrations, of which Mr. Sharp is the reputed Editor.
+ The confusion of the persons of the Holy Trinity arising from the old pictorial designs and mysteries. A splendid picture, by Rubens, of Ignatius Loyola, represents the founder of the Jesuits contemplating this mystery in rapture. His uplifted eyes are fixed on the letters I. H. S. blazing in the centre of a flame of fire. These awful initials, still placed on the pulpits and altar pieces of Protestant Churches, denote neither 'Trinity nor Unity; they only exemplify the mistakes of the early manuscript writers.
This is shewn by Mr. Casley, in his preface to the Catalogue of the King's MSS. (p. xxiii.) he says, that, in Latin MSS. the Greek letters of the word Christus, as also Jesus, are always retained, except that the terminations are changed according to the Latin language. Jesus is written 1. H. S., or in small characters i. h. s., which is the Greek I H I, or ons, an abbreviation of inoes. However, the scribes knew nothing of this for a thousand years before the invention of printing; for, if they had, they would not have written i h s. for inces; but they ignorantly copied, after one another, such letters as they found put for those two words : nay, at length, they pretended to find Jesus Hominum Salvator comprehended in the word I HS; which is another proof that they took the middle letter to be h, not n. The dash also over the word, which is a sign of abbreviation, some have changed to the sign of the cross.
1451.-It payed for vj skynnys of whitleder to godds garment
xviii It' payed for makyng of the same garment
xd 1553.-—It payd for v schepskens for gods & coot for makyng
iij 1498.-It payd for mendyng a cheverel for god and for
sowyng of gods kote of leddur and for makyng of
pd for a gyrdyll for god 1501.-It pd ffor a newe sudere for god
vija 1560.-Item for a selldall for god .
xija All the different characters are suitably attired, though without much respect for probability or chronology. The anachronisms are much the same as the scenic representations of Abraham shooting Isaac with a double-barrelled Birmingham gun, and Apollo playing on a Cremona fiddle. The Devil was a very favourite and prominent character in the religious mysteries; he was introduced as often as was decently practicable; and it is not a little amusing to trace his modern biography and the brimstone descriptions so common in our popular conventicles, in these mimic representations.
“ But bad as he is, the Devil may be abused,
The following is the account of this gentleman's habiliments :
1451.-Item payd for the demon's garment makyng & the stof
v* iija ob. Item payd for collyryng of the same garment viija 1477.-Item for mendyng the demons garment inter alia), Item for newe ledder to the same garment
xxija 1494.-Item paid to Wattis for dressyng of the devells hede viija 1490.-Item the devyls hede (repaired) 1498.-It paid for peynttyng of the demones hede (inter alia) 1567.-Item payd for a stafe for the demon
Satan has certainly met with more civil description in later
* This cheverel, or false hair, (peruke) in 1490, described to have been gilt, is consistent with the fashion of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth, who are reported to have worn, occasionally, fine gold-dust in their hair: this was, probably, some cheap lacker in imitation of the haut ton practice.
times. A recent military writer says, that at the Lisbon theatre, in a piece called the Creation of the World, the Devil appears in a dancing quadrille of infernal spirits, dressed in black, with scarlet stockings, and a gold-laced hat. In the Banes to the Chester plays, 1600, their Devil is thus described :
“ The Devill in bis fethers, all ragger and rent." The Devil appears to have been much better known in those days. We moderns can boast no personal acquaintance with him, with his tail, his barbed tongue, or his prong, and no knowledge of him save what we learn from blackletter books and the Latin poem Querela, translated by the father of Crashaw the poet, under the title of “The Complaint, or Dialogue betwixt the Soule and the Bodie of a Damned Man; each laying the fault upon the other.” (London, 1616, 24mo.) One further description only of this important person we will quote from the conversation between Hodge and Gammer, in Gammer Gurton's Needle :
Gam :-But Hodge had he no horns to push?
Painted on cloth, with a side long cowe's tayle,
another." We pass over the well-known descriptions of Hell Mouth, (hell was not very deep at Coventry, as three fathoms of cord would bottom it) the demons, the earthquake, and all the rude paraphernalia of the scenery.
The only play extant, that of the guild and company of shearmen and taylors, is re-printed with a singular fidelity, which, as in other instances, we cannot for want of type imitate. This guild was founded in honour of the Nativity, and took for the subject of their pageant, the Birth of Christ and offering of the Magi, with the Flight into Egypt and Murder of the Innocents. We have no space for those extracts, which would enable our readers to judge of the nature of the plot
* “ On the evening of Good Friday," says Southey, in his Letters from Spain and Portugal, “ I went to the new Convent, to witness the rending of the veil of the Temple, and hear a Portuguese Sermon. The Earthquake was represented by a noise like scuffling of feet." Vol. ii. p. 181.